Dogs and cats have an amazing skeletal system that is composed of bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. The joints are the skeletal hinges that allow the skeleton to move and flex in amazing ways. When joints are damaged by disease or injury, inflammation results. Inflammation in the joints is known as arthritis.
Arthritis may be either degenerative or inflammatory in nature. Degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis is more common in dogs and cats than inflammatory joint disease. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis in dogs and cats, can be divided into primary or secondary arthritis. Primary osteoarthritis is due to an inherited tendency towards the problem. An example would be hip dysplasia in certain lines of German Shepherds.
Secondary osteoarthritis is a result of wear and tear on the joint. Vigorous exercise, excessive jumping, injuries, accidents or stretching and tearing ligaments can lead to arthritis due to abnormal stresses on previously normal joints. Large breed dogs are more susceptible to osteoarthritis due to increased weight and stress on the joints. Dogs and cats who are overweight, seniors or have medical conditions such as diabetes are at an increased risk of osteoarthritis as well. In a recent study it was found that 90 percent of cats over the age of 12 had radiographic evidence of arthritis.
Clinical signs of arthritis in dogs can be stiffness on rising, reluctance to go for walks, slow or stiff movements that improve with walking, muscle atrophy, limping and pain. It is not difficult to suspect that your dog has arthritis, however cats are a different story.
Clinical signs of arthritis in cats can be reluctance to use the litter box, poor grooming habits, decreased appetite, weight loss, depression, neurological signs and lameness.
HOW IS ARTHRITIS DIAGNOSED IN DOGS AND CATS?
X-rays of the bones and joints can confirm a diagnosis of arthritis .In cases of suspected infectious or immune arthritis, a joint fluid analysis may be needed. Special blood tests may also be needed to diagnose conditions such as tick borne arthritis and lupus.
ARTHRITIS TREATMENTS AND PREVENTION
Treatments for arthritis are varied but focus on a few principles–to reduce pain and to improve mobility. Conventional treatments can include steroids, non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs ( aspirin type drugs), polyglycosaminoglycans ( drugs that prevent cartilage breakdown), glucosamine products, Omega 3 fatty acids and pain killers. Surgical treatments such as stem cell therapy may be necessary for some arthritic conditions. Natural herbal therapies such as Pet Wellbeing’s new Agile Joints Formula can be very useful when conventional medications are not desired or tolerated by the pet. Other treatments include dietary therapy, acupuncture, laser therapy, magnetic therapy, chiropractic, massage and physiotherapy including water therapy. Weight loss and exercise therapy are extremely important for any arthritic animal.
Arthritis in all species can be prevented by a natural anti-inflammatory diet, prevention of obesity, regular exercise and preventive levels of Omega 3 fatty acids and glucosamine supplements.